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Sununu: Democrats won election by turning out voters who are dependent on government

Former governor, John H. Sununu, right, was one of three former Republican governors of New Hampshire to attend a discussion at the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy's second sponsored dinner at the Grappone Conference Center Tuesday evening, December 4, 2012. Along with Sununu were former governors Craig Benson and Steve Merrill.

(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

Former governor, John H. Sununu, right, was one of three former Republican governors of New Hampshire to attend a discussion at the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy's second sponsored dinner at the Grappone Conference Center Tuesday evening, December 4, 2012. Along with Sununu were former governors Craig Benson and Steve Merrill. (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

President Obama and the Democrats won last month’s election because they were able to turn out voters who are dependent on the government, former New Hampshire governor and Mitt Romney adviser John H. Sununu said last night.

“They aggressively got out the base of their base, the base of their base that’s dependent, to a great extent economically, on government policy and government programs,” Sununu said during a forum with two other Republican former governors, Steve Merrill and Craig Benson, at Concord’s Grappone Conference Center.

For example, Sununu said, Democrats ran up big majorities in some parts of Cleveland in the key swing state of Ohio, while Republicans got only a handful of votes there.

“It was not because of message. It was not because of message,” Sununu said. “It was because of political organization, political unity, joining together across a broad spectrum of different views within the Democratic Party, and presenting a perception of what they were going to do in a way that was absolutely attractive to their base.”

Sununu, who was a top media surrogate for Romney during the presidential campaign, spoke during a fundraising-and-awards dinner hosted by the conservative Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.

His comments echoed controversial remarks made by Romney before the Nov. 6 election, when the GOP nominee told donors that 47 percent of voters would support Obama because they depend on government, and after the election, when Romney said Obama won by giving “gifts” to voting blocs like young people and Hispanics. Romney’s statements were widely criticized by Democrats and some Republicans.

Sununu, Merrill and Benson all offered their thoughts last night on Republican losses in last month’s election, and the path going forward for the party.

“I agree with everything that John said,” Merrill said, adding that he believes the 2012 election was about “the cult of the personality” as much as anything else.

“Certainly Barack Obama did not get re-elected based on his performance. . . . But his personality, particularly in campaign mode, was something that they liked and that they were attracted to, and that helped drive that base,” Merrill said.

Benson said the GOP could have better connected with voters by making clear the stark differences between Democrats, who “believe in a nanny state,” and Republicans, who believe in the power of the individual to achieve prosperity.

“For those people that believe that the government can do a better job, here’s what they do a better job of: They get people addicted, in some cases, to the fact that maybe they don’t need to go out and make their own future. They get people addicted to the idea that maybe they can’t do something on their own. And there’s no worse fate for anybody in this world than to think that they can’t do something magnificent with their life,” Benson said. “So what the Democratic Party does is, it takes people’s dreams away, period.”

The solution, Sununu said, is not for people to try to take New Hampshire’s Republican Party further to the right, but to refocus on basic principles like frugality and local control.

As Merrill put it, “We need to get back to basics.”

Sununu served as New Hampshire’s governor from 1983 to 1989, then was White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush and later, from 2009 to 2011, chairman of the state Republican Party. Merrill, a former attorney general, was governor from 1993 to 1997. Benson won his sole term as governor in 2002, losing two years later to Democrat John Lynch, who will step down next month after four terms in office.

Their roughly 45-minute discussion last night was moderated by Kevin Smith, who ran for governor this year but lost in the Republican primary to Ovide Lamontagne, who in turn lost Nov. 6 to Democrat Maggie Hassan.

The three former governors discussed economic challenges during their terms, told jokes and reminisced about the controversial construction of the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant in the 1980s and the collapse, in 2003, of the Old Man of the Mountain in Franconia Notch.

They also discussed their greatest regrets in the corner office. Sununu said he was frustrated that the Seabrook plant wasn’t completed faster. Merrill said he failed to balance his work life and his personal life well. And Benson said he regretted not getting to serve longer.

The Josiah Bartlett Center last night presented its 2012 Libertas Award to retiring Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek, a Manchester Republican stepping down after five terms on the five-member council, which reviews gubernatorial nominees and state contracts.

All three ex-governors had kind words for Wieczorek, and Sununu was expansive in his praise of the Executive Council itself.

“I am absolutely convinced that part of what makes New Hampshire so special is that council,” Sununu said. “And they do give us grief at times. They remind us we have to count to three. . . . But the fact is that in the long run, we have the most open state government of any state in the country – we may have the most open major government of anywhere in the world – and I think it’s primarily because of the council.”

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

Legacy Comments47

To Mr Currie...Mr Obama is a liar. And climate change is a ruse to get the US to pay hundreds of billions to other countries..........http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/3242389-95/countries-deal-climate-rich......It all comes down to money.

"It all comes down to money" - money that flows from the bottom to the top, while the planet is trashed in the process. That needs to change, and the election was a step in the right direction.

That money..American money...MY money, should be used for our country. NYC is a very important port. Why dont we take that money and protect it with a seawall? We could have built over 50 seawalls with the stimulus money. Instead, we built.....??????????

Re: "Instead, we built....? Again, those googly tubes can be used for more than just confirming preconceived notions. As has been discussed here numerous times, the consensus among mainstream economists is that the stimulus helped ameliorate the effects of the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. You can look it up. And as for that seawall, you'd have been the first to declare it a boondoggle had it ever been proposed anywhere along the eastern seaboard.

If we don't solve the climate change problem we're going to need a lot more than "50 seawalls". Here's a breakthrough that may be a key part of the solution: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2012/12/121206-high-voltage-dc-breakthrough/

Sigh....Alas, your skewed far-right perspective is showing. Whether you're curmudgeon Ken from Laconia, who was a regular commenter a few years back, or contrarian GWTW, your perspective is dependably skewed to overlook a multitude of facts that don't fit your narrative. And when facts fail, just make them up to support your claim. Or don't even bother--just make a sweeping assertion because it feels good. E.g.: "Mr. Obama is a liar." He's no more nor less a liar than any other politician, and far less a one than the scoundrel he replaced, who've you've just defended on this thread in several posts. Go figure.

You have forgotten one important point. Bush is no longer president. Obama is.

How exactly is your comment a relevant response to mine? But "forgotten"? To the contrary, along with millions of others, I thank my lucky stars each day that we have a president who inhabits the real world to a greater extent than either the previous occupant, or the man who would have replaced him.

Sununu was not clear. Democrats won the election by scaring seniors, Medicare and Social Security recipients and they convinced enough of the uninformed and naive voters struggling in this Obama economy that somehow if they supported them, they would get some freebies. That, supported by the upper liberal class put them over the top. When people are pushed to the brink, they will support anyone who promises to take care of them; whether or not Democrats really mean that is secondary.

To Skitzo...George Bush has to be the greatest president ever. He can start wars and put the cost off the books all by himself. His tax cut policy generated so much wealth and income to the treasury, the economy crashed. And Bush fought a war on borrowed money. One question...when did Obama stop borrowing money for the wars????? LOL. So...its bad if Bush borrows money to fund the wars , but its fine for Obama to do it?? And dont tell me they are in Obamas budget....he hasn't had one since he became president. Chew on those thoughts for a while...and remember..Bush was the greatest president ever....and Obama is a muslom.

Bush had 9/11 momentum, phony intelligence, plus a republican congress (and pliable democrats afraid of appearing soft on terror) , that allowed him to railroad the neocon agenda for war against Saddam, which we now know was based on false pretenses. Obama was against starting the Iraq war, which as most universally agree, would have been the right thing to do at the time. Obama has tried to end the Iraq war, but of course, it is a clusterfuk, since our ham handed efforts have completely destablized the region. Regardless of whether Obama was able to get a budget through the teabag congress, he still accounts for the wars. Since you use "LOL" but don't use a sarcasm smiley face when saying that Bush is the greatest president ever and Obama is a Muslim (or as you put it "muslom"), I have to assume you are serious. Seriously. To all but a bigoted and uninformed minority, you just lost whatever credibility you might have had.

My comment was as serious as yours was. BTW...where are the other set of books Bush kept???? Did he secretly fund the wars off the books all by himself???

SCO.....shhhhhhhh! Progressives are not supposed to know about those books. It was a Bush/Cheney conspiracy and we almost have these guys fooled.

It's always astonishing to me the lengths to which true believers will go to: 1) not believe in the mendacity of the Bush administration as it manipulated the nation into the Iraq War; http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/leadup-iraq-war-timeline and 2) ignore/slander the scientists and the science on climate change. The public needs and deserves the truth, so that this nation is never again stampeded into an unnecessary and wasteful war, and so that public opinion can be marshalled to force politicians (including Obama, who will likely only do what public opinion forces him to on the issue) to begin to take significant action on reducing the nation's climate footprint.

Those googly tubes are there for a reason. And no, he didn't fund the wars all by himself, he had plenty of people who were complicit in the deceit. But Bush, in the wake of 9/11, had tremendous and almost unquestioned authority to respond to the terror attack in any way he deemed proper. You seem to have forgotten that. And too many Americans then forgot the importance of Reagan's paraphrase of a Russian proverb--"Trust, but verify." "Historically, the United States has funded wars through emergency supplemental spending for the first year or two. Then, as a conflict drags out, its cost gets integrated into the regular budgetary process. The Bush administration broke with that model in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, funding them “off the books” through emergency appropriations acts year after year. Obama has continued that practice, though he has changed the war-budgeting timeline to coincide with the regular budget, drawing greater attention to the tradeoffs involved." Will Oremus, in Slate, Oct. 31, 2011.

earthling: Republicans lost election by turning off voters with their union busting, war on women, and dependency on big government tax cut entitlements for their wealthy campaign contributors. However, they did manage to hold back the landslide with their magic beans voter suppression strategy at the polls. Maybe their new war on the disabled will produce better results next time around.

Reply to Mr Currie...If you admire Carnegie so much, and correct me if I'm wrong, why did you refer to him as a robber baron??? Also, wasn't Bessimer only able to produce steel in very small expensive quantities? Without Carnegie...well...history shows us. And as far as machine tools go...todays high school grads don't even know what a machine tool is, let alone operate one. Why is that Bruce??? Also on the subject of machine tools, I happen to be one of the last recipients of a Machine Tool Processes degree from Manchester Vo Tec. I witnessed the absolute crap from American producers of CNC machine tools back in the 80's. Sad to say, these union shop machine tools were the worst of the worst, the Japanese CNC machine tools were far superior. You cannot have a machine tool industry with product that bad. As an aside, I have never read Ayn Rand, but plan to...possibly after I retire from a 40 year career in local Machine Shops.

You won't find any mention of "robber baron" in my two posts. You're the one who brought up Carnegie's name. BTW: JP Morgan was the man who built U.S. Steel, on the basis of mergers and acquisitions. He bought Carnegie Steel in 1901. Morgan can fairly be described as a robber baron--though that's not to say no good came of his behavior or creations. Carnegie later in life made amends for his behavior. The Homestead Strike of 1892 had permanently damaged his reputation. His friend turned enemy Henry Clay Frick (who bore the most immediate responsibility for the Homestead violence), years later wrote to Carnegie that he would "see you in Hell." Carnegie wrote this most un-libertarian passage in his 1889 essay "Wealth" which referenced all the giant corporate enterprises of the time--rail, steel, meatpacking, and mining: "In the work and its profits the Nation was an essential partner and equally entitled with the individual to share in the dividends." As for machine tools, my previous posts referred to to disinvestment. That started happening to the domestic machine tools industry starting in the late 1950s. As for Ayn Rand--don't waste your time. There are too many good books worth reading, and life is too short to waste on bad ones.

Actually it is the Left that seems to be obsessed with why the Right lost. Why? We know why we lost. It does not take a brain surgeon to figure out that if you run against Santa Claus with the offer of freebies, folks will vote for you. Kind of like the kid that is running for class president that gives out freebies.

That is just mindless Fox news talking points. What freebees are you talking about? Public education? Public highways? Social Security and Medicare for those working people who have paid into the system their whole lives? Unemployment benefits for people who lost their jobs because free trade policies allowed them to be moved to countries that allows quasi-slave labor? I would like to see you back up your ridiculous conclusions with specifics. Identify the lazy sponges with whom you are so obsessed.

Skitzo, Nice comments on this thread responding to BH and SCO, both of whom seem to make it their mission in life to get out bed each morning on the wrong side.

Entitlements? Dependence on government handouts? It depends on your perspective. Sununu overlooks the myriad entitlements of crony capitalism that the banksters enjoy even after their too-big-to-fail institutions wreaked the economy. Mitt Romney and his fellow corporate wizards in finance and industry have long enjoyed cozy relationships with congressmen of both parties, who gladly write tax laws in exchange for campaign donations that favor the wealthy and the corporations. By their predatory actions and their tax shelters, said corporate wizards reduced investments in U.S. manufacturing in favor of higher returns in the financial sector and in foreign manufacturing, out of old-fashioned greed. They justified their actions with the deluded belief that a post-industrial America could still thrive. After all, why would this nation ever need a domestic steel industry, or ship-building capacity, or machine tools? We need to end the dependence of the wealthy upon tax breaks and shelters by raising income and capital gains taxes on the rich. And no large corporation should ever again have a tax burden of zero. "Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of motives, will somehow work for the benefit of us all."--Keynes

I think Mr Currie overlooks the fact that the US steel industry was single handedly built by one man, Andrew Carnegie. A "robber-baron" as Currie has called him, Carnegie mortgaged himself to the hilt on a vision to put a bridge over the Mississippi. Not only did he have to design bridge, he had to invent a way to produce enough steel to do it. Capitalism built the US steel industry...If it were up to the Curries and Keynesians and socialists, we'd still be clearing the environmental lawsuits. And as far as machine tools go, who's bright idea was it to STOP teaching machine shop in the high schools and tech colleges???? The capitalists?????

Your bizarre response doesn't remotely address any of the points I raised. And your version of the history of the steel industry could have come from the fevered brow of Ayn Rand, it's so full of worshipful libertarian balderdash about a mythical Andrew Carnegie that the real one would never recognize himself. Case in point: "the US steel industry was single handedly built by one man, Andrew Carnegie." Tell that to Henry Bessemer, for starters. As a fellow Scotsman, I admire Carnegie and his legacy. Your post does him a dis-service.

I remember when Sununu was running for governor, there was a bumper sticker that read: "Will Rogers Never Met John Sununu." Sununu is certainly an unctious, despicable human, completely lacking in integrity.

For me there seems to be an issue with the Left. Why are they so focused on why the right lost? Strange, their party won, yet many do not seem happy or confident about the win. Article after article of why the left thinks the right lost. Does not seem just rubbing salt into the wounds to me, more like maybe they are trying to convince themselves 4 more years of this adminstration is a good idea. Or maybe they are hoping that if the Rep party can be destroyed,then they will have what they always wanted. A new America based on big govt and socialism. They do not seem like happy winners.

Perception is interesting. From my perspective, its the republicans who are playing the blame game for their losses. A lot of republicans like to misuse the term "socialism" and throw it around like they are trying to resurrect McCarthyism. Republican ideology will lead to feudalism: a society with no government except police power, with few wealthy people living in the manor, and the rest of us peons trying to scratch out a subsistence living. And don't ever forget, the reason we have this huge debt is because of republican policies--cutting taxes when we had a surplus in 2000 to drive us straight into deficit spending, then starting two wars without paying for them, to exacerbate the deficit spending. The Busn administration grew government bureaucracy and spending at an uprecedented rate and drove us into this whole At least democratic spending is for infrastructure that benefits all of us, instead of tax breaks for the next generation of trust fund brats.

I have a question (s)...what year saw the most tax revenue ever to enter the treasury coffers? What was the budget deficit in 2007??

Of course you know the answer about tax revenues. You might note that 2007 was the year before we drove to the edge of the real fiscal cliff under Dubbya's leadership--to the worst economic disaster since the great depression. There was a lot of tax revenue because a lot of people made big bucks during the bubble economy. People made money in a falsely propped up bubble in real estate, which was extended by artificially low interest rates and relaxed lending standards among banks. Moreover, false profits were being made with "mortgage backed securities," which we now know were fraudulent securities. FRAUDULENT. I hope you were paying attention in 2008, when the cause of collapse was discussed in hindsight. I hope no one forgets those lessons the way we forgot the lessons of the S&L collapse in the late 80s. Because of the Bush tax cuts, there was more investment money in the marketplace than it could absorb. As a consequence, investors scrambled around looking for places to park their money, and investment houses started inventing new instruments by bundling and packaging subprime mortgages, getting them rated "AAA" and selling them to the world as ironclad securities. These toxic securities infected every 401K and credit union, every mutual fund, every country. Of course, at their bottom, they were based on subprime mortgages which were aggressively marketed to people who could not afford them over the long term, and the bubble burst. 2007 was the epitome of an unhealthy economy. There was no real growth--it was phony and manipulated, which is why it suddenly collapsed without notice to most. A few made fabulous wealth and the rest of us were left holding the bag when we experienced the WORST economic collapse since 1929. Another thing-- Bush started and fought the Iraq war OFF THE BOOKS with BORROWED MONEY. Do an honest budget to really see what the deficits were like. It borders on amazing that you would cite those years of blindness to future consequences as some sort of model. It is craziness.

Mr. Benson must be one of the few residents of New Hampshire who regrets he didn't serve longer.

I wish someone would just stick a pin and just deflate this Gas Bag once and for all. It's no coincidence that John Sununu was muzzled the last week of the campaign after he made his last stupid remarks regarding President Obama. This slimy slob needs to crawl back in his cave a stay there!

My goodness, Sununu et al. sound like a bunch of schoolyard crybabies. It probably won'e happen, but at some point in time I hope the Republicans will: 1. Look to their own campaign(s) to understand why they lost - instead of using childish claims about their opponent. 2. Stop being so utterly self-righteous. 3. Stop the racism at the heart of their party. 4. Understand that Americans voted for President Obama for at least two reasons: he has, despite what Fake News, Limbaugh and other sources of truth for Republicans claim, done a very good job given the circumstances - an economy on the brink of collapse and a do-nothing obstructionist, Republican-controlled House; and, two, a stupendously unattractive candidate (Rmoney) and poorly-run campaign.

Gee... wasn't it Sununu that was called on the carpet for his exotic use of government funds to take trips. Wasn't it joked about... him needing to use the whitehouse bicycle? He does need to go back under his rock and be quiet. That said... I disagree with the Obama camp on many things...and I didn't vote for either Romney or Obama. However, Never trust a policitian... and never let a politician from Mass out of your sight. We knew what we were up against with Obama, it might have only gotten worse with Romney. Neither Koolaid from either party seems particularly appetizing.

The New York Times investigations columnist Louise Story has written a three part article detailing tax incentives and payoffs corporations receive from States to relocate or do business there. We are talking hundreds of billions of dollars. Money that could and should be going to our schools, for public safety and for the maintenance and improvement of our roads, parks and the rest of our crumbling infrastructure. So when Romney or that hot air bag of a pompous ass Sununu gets up to tell you it is the 47% mooching off of the government’s largesse that supported Obama, perhaps he should include the rest of the story.

Now, here are experts. Sununu, who is tone deaf to the racism and elitism in the GOP, and in his own head -- now an attack dog without portfolio. Craig Benson, who could not be driven from office fast enough for most voters -- a template for how badly a CEO serves as chief executive in a political / public service environment. Steve Merrill, who had the brains to say nothing. And the Josiah Bartlett Center -- a Trojan horse amongst us, pushing radical right-wing ideology after co-opting a good name. Sounds like other would-be authoritarians, does it not? A politico like Sununu never says what he is actually trying to convey, and his real message is to those who fought and voted against outdated and outgrown conservative ideology. He is trying to get people thinking that they are part of the problem, rather than the solution. He is wrong, and wrong-headed. The right thing happened, and it is up to those of us who helped make it so to help sustain and grow it.

Excellent! Well said!

Do you work for the Monitor? I think so.

Looking at the first two comments by John Doe and BunnyHop, my sense is that you are both, at least, partly correct. There is a nanny state, but I think it is limited to a much smaller number of people than many people think (and loudly articulate). Are they people that abuse the system? Absolutely, but I suspect it is not the majority of those who receive some type of assistance from the state/federal government. Did many people, democrats and independents, liberals and moderates, vote in general for candidates in the democratic party because they literally feared what Romney's message was? Absolutely. A few friends of mine who consider themselves Republicans to the core voted for democrats because of what they called a distorted republic message (i.e., distorted by the republican party itself). There is merit in the arguments from both sides of the aisle. It would be better for all if the arguments were not made with so much hate and anger.

Isn't that exactly what the Republican Party does? Get their base out to vote and in this case it was the members who get the most out of their party. Like making it easier to exploit us 47%.

There is nothing hateful about the fact that we have become an entitlement society JD. We have. That is not false it is true. You only have to look at govt spending and when you do you cannot deny the road we are headed for. Bigger govt and more entitlements. Liberalism on steriods. The message is that folks cannot make it on their own, so govt will provide for them. Anybody that denies that is living under a rock. Almost as bad as our economic state is the fact that the we are so divided as people. That has been allowed and encouraged the last 4 years. We are in for another 4 years of decline. This adminstration has no intention of cutting spending on any level. They cannot compromise and have no desire to. Unemployment will get even higher and folks will be at each other's throats more. A very different America. If you want the model for what that will look like, just check out what is going on in Europe because the money has run out. That is us done the road.

Miss Bunny, I'm going to ask you what I've asked many conservative commenters to do; please go over to your window, pull the blinds/shade up and look out the window. Things have changed. We no longer have the conservative/tea party leadership to selfishly make laws to keep the common residents in poverty while they continued with tax breaks for the rich. Dick Army resigned this week from his leadership position of the Tea Party as its going nowhere. Like it or not we need to pay for the unfunded wars of the Bush Administration and the tax-breaks enacted by Bush for the rich during his term. If we keep going like you'd want us to go America will be at "each others throat" as you put it, because we have this enormous debt caused by the Bush tax cuts/wars and the Reagan tax cuts 30 years ago. We are going forward regardless of what the republican leaders speak of.

"We no longer have the conservative/tea party leadership to selfishly make laws to keep the common residents in poverty while they continued with tax breaks for the rich."...........So when Obama taxes the rich and removes their tax breaks, and the poverty rates stay the same or increase...then what???

Then Hillary. In 2016.

You have it exactly backwards. Poverty rates began creeping up, and the middle class began to shrink when capital gains rates and individual tax rates began to be cut.

Sorry, John, you're wrong. Again. Democrats and Independents voted for Obama because you and your candidates were scary, obnoxious nitwits. We didn't like what you were selling...which was basically more of the same welfare and thievery for the very rich among us. Corporate welfare, war, redistribution of the nation's wealth from the middle to the upper class just didn't appeal to us. So take your hate, your anger, your delusions and go far, far away, John. You are an embarrassment to our state and to the nation. Maybe, being an alien, you should learn how to be an American. You lost; get over it.

Well said John. He should have red ears with his credibility working for Bush 1. He was excused for his blatant behaviors during his time as Bush's Chief of Staff. "It's better to let people think you're the fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

The election is over, republicans weren't the winners, get over it. Stop finding justifications for losing and move on! Stop beating a dead horse .

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